Saturday, September 22, 2007

European Echoes on the Gibson

Bern Nix Trio @ An Die Musik, Baltimore, MD
Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bern Nix: guitar
Francios Grillot: bass
Jackson Krall: drums

"I'd now like to play 'European Echoes,' which is a piece composed by my former employer..." Having only recently discovered "European Echoes" myself, it was a pleasure to hear it within a guitar trio context led by Bern Nix, a former Prime Time guitarist with the enviable experience of being employed and immersed within the harmolodic world of Ornette Coleman. It's an excellent choice from the Coleman oeuvre for the melodic talents of Nix.

Jazz guitarists don't get more unassuming than Bern Nix. With incredible focus on phrasing, linear improvisation and an approach to the music that sits squarely within the tradition, Nix allows the substance of his playing to speak for him. With a set list comprised of original compositions mixed in with interpretations of gems such as "European Echoes," he displayed an impressive improvisational sensibility for boundless melodic development and an uncanny ability to return into the original "tune" from unexpected angles.

Overall, the balance was a little off with this trio with Krall's drumming often overwhelming the trio sound as things settled into a narrow dynamic range. There was a liquid quality to this music as the players filled every moment with sound, leaving precious little space in the overall sonic picture. At the end of each piece the music would quickly wash away with a froth like an ocean wave retreating from a beach as the trio navigated through brief codas with minimal flourish. It was the texture of those fleeting moments when the players would pry gently away from the formal structure of the "tunes" that delivered the sense of contrast missing from most of this set.

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